Paper Treasure

From: Deborah Gaudin
Category: Category 1
Date: 08 Oct 2006

In the corner of my bedroom stands a bookcase, of three shelves. It is well out of the way of direct sunlight, and directly in my line of vision from the bed. It contains the most precious books in my collection, not always the most expensive, although some of them are, but the ones that sound the deepest resonance with me. Naturally this is where my collection of Elizabeth Goudge books lives,  making up the largest group of books on the shelves. Some that are not by her have a bearing on her life and work.

I was found by Elizabeth Goudge, age nine, at a friends house by accident one wet afternoon, in the form of a tatty paperback called “The Little White Horse”. My friend had been bought it by her elder sister, and didn’t care for it at all. I on the other hand couldn’t put it down. From the moment the carriage lurches, and Miss Heliotrope, Maria Merryweather and Wiggins fall into each others arms, I was enchanted. The spell was only deepened as Digweed swung from the bell rope, and trundled them through the tunnel.

How could any child processed of an imagination not know that an enchanted and other worldly kingdom awaited not only Maria, but anyone courageous enough to accompany her. The Cathedral books and The White Witch followed on over the next few years, until I was eagerly searching for other titles by this remarkable author. She seemed able to bring the world of the spirit into the every day and make of the mundane something fresh and new. I set out to find all of her books, and was lucky enough to do so with the exception of her plays and one early set of stories.

I caught the news of her death in 1984 by accident. I was married by this time with my first child on the way and a new house in a strange town to look after. I felt as though a beloved distant relative had died, and that now, I would never get a chance to tell her how much I admired and loved her. I re read all her work, and started to fill in the gaps that I hadn’t got around to filling. Suddenly every word she had written was doubly precious, as there weren’t going to be any more. I sought out copies of her Omnibus edition of the Eliots of Damerosehay; this had a forward in it that filled in a tiny piece of knowledge. Her auto biography, anthologies and Diary of Prayer, soon followed. I found the guide she had written for the Chapel at Buckler’s Hard, and that she had written the jacket publicity for a number of books such as “Rider on the White Horse”, and “Sword at Sunset”, both written by another favourite author of mine Rosemary Sutcliff.

This is when the wonderful, Goudgian event occurred. My husband mentioned that he had seen the first editions of The Sword and the Circle, The Road to Camlann and The Light Beyond the Forest by Rosemary Sutcliff for sale, and that they were signed by the author. Was I interested? Of cause I was, how could I resist? When the books arrived, they were in perfect condition, obviously never been read, and indeed they were signed by the author, and dedicated to “Elizabeth with love.” One of the books also contained a letter. It said; “Elizabeth, my poor Darling! Jessie told me about your poor pinned leg and I am so sorry! This is really just a Get Well Card, I’ll write properly when you feel more up to letters, and meanwhile I’ll phone Jessie for news. Much love Rosemary” It was dated April 24th. For anyone familiar with Elizabeth’s biography, the connection of the two names Jessie and Elizabeth in the same missive had to be more than coincidence! In the “World of Elizabeth Goudge” Sylvia Gower tells us how in the early spring of 1978, Elizabeth had a fall at home and injured her leg so badly she had to go to hospital. Seven months later she was still in pain enough to mention her pinned leg in correspondence.

Elizabeth told a reporter that Jessie was a great help to her with her files and papers, and indeed was told to burn all superfluous material after her death. I am sure that Elizabeth would have corresponded with a number of contemporary authors, such as Rosemary Sutcliff, especially as they belonged to the same publishing house. If a friend knows another is unwell and wishes to send love and good wishes to them, what could be more natural than sending something “home made” or personal with the wish? For most of us it would be a pot of home made jam, or a bunch of garden flowers. But between authors, first editions of their new book! What an addition to a collection. To be able to think that Elizabeth would at least have had the letter read to her, if not actually held it. The very books themselves must have come from her library. I think that along with Parson Hawthorne (The White Witch) Elizabeth held books to be “the best of the earthly meats”, and how rich a new book could make them both feel. These books have now become a treasured part of my collection, a nugget of gold in a jewelled casket of books.

 

Re: Paper Treasure

From: Jo
Category: Category 1

Comments

I thoroughly appreciated the information contained in this posting. Thank you. My husband and I visited with Jessie Monroe outside of Rose Cottage in August, 1979. She was so gracious to us and invited her into their garden and offered cuttings of plants from the garden. She said Miss Goudge had just returned from a nursing home.

 

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